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Optometrist Malpractice Claims in Georgia

May 21, 2017

Like other medical professionals, optometrists are held to a certain standard of care when they treat their patients. When they make errors it can cause serious harm to their patients. In certain cases, the optometrist can find himself or herself liable for damages to the injured patient.

What are some ways in which an optometrist can be found liable for malpractice?

Most optometrists practice with the utmost care towards their patients.  However, like many medical professionals, optometrists can commit malpractice by failing to diagnose a condition. There are certain tests, such as the test for glaucoma that optometrists should administer on all patients, regardless of whether the patient is at risk for it, or shows any symptoms of likely having the condition. Most malpractice claims against optometrists involve "retinal detachment, glaucoma and tumors." When an optometrist fails to diagnose a condition that impacts a patient's eyes, the impact can be very serious, including the patient's total loss of vision.

Will an optometrist always be found liable if a patient suffered harm as a result of a mistake or failure to diagnose?

Just because a patient turns out to have a condition the doctor failed to diagnose, or the patient suffered other harm to their eyes, vision or health, it does not necessarily mean that the optometrist committed malpractice. In order to be found guilty of malpractice, the injured patient must show several things.

The practitioner must owe a duty to the patient. If the injured person was a patient of the optometrist, this requirement is satisfied. The optometrist must have failed to meet the standard of care that is generally required of optometrists. This could occur in the event that the practitioner did not perform a test that most practitioners would have performed, or failed to diagnose a condition that would have been readily apparent to other optometrists. However, if an optometrist failed to diagnose a condition that would have likely been missed by most practitioners, whether because it was extremely rare or extremely difficult to diagnose, then the case for malpractice would not be as strong.

Another requirement is that the patient actually suffered some harm because of the optometrist's actions or failure to act. If the optometrist failed to diagnose a condition, but another doctor found it the next day and the patient did not suffer as a result, then there would not be any harm suffered. Also, if the doctor failed to diagnose a condition, but there was no medical intervention capable of treating the condition, then the patient was not harmed as a result of the failure to diagnose the condition.

Additionally, the act or omission that was considered to have failed to meet the standard of care must be the cause of the injury to the patient. If the doctor's negligence caused no harm, but something else did cause harm, then it is not enough that the patient was harmed, and the doctor was negligent. There must be a causal relationship between the negligence and the injury. For instance, if the doctor failed to perform a test for glaucoma when it was the standard practice to do so, then he or she was negligent. If the patient later was diagnosed with a very rare disorder that could only be diagnosed through an expensive and invasive test that was rarely performed, the failure to test for glaucoma was not the cause for the missed diagnosis or the rare disorder. 

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If you have been injured in any incident caused by someone else's negligence, call Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law for your free consultation today. Montlick & Associates,  has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over 38 years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.

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Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.